Gaming In Missouri


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Missouri Taking “Show Me” Attitude Concerning Online Gambling Legislation

gambling in MissouriMissouri, long known as one of the stalwart states that make up America’s heartland, is home to people who go about and take care of their business. Missouri is also home to famous author Mark Twain, whose literary works signify how life was lived along the Mississippi River back in the nineteenth century. Twain mentioned riverboats that traveled relentlessly up and down the mighty Mississippi a time or two throughout his body of work–and was himself a master riverboat pilot.

There is no question that one of the activities aboard those noble steeds of the waterways was gambling. Sure enough, in the Show Me State as it is today, the only location where gambling is legal is on a riverboat.

But the 21st century is offering something even Mark Twain’s imagination couldn’t have conjured–online gambling. For gamblers across the United States, online gambling is convenient. Players can participate in games they want to play when they want to play them, and it’s a safe bet that there are already some Missouri residents wagering online. But in 2011, Missouri legislators didn’t seem to be as concerned about Internet gambling as they were about the drops in revenue seen at eight of the state’s riverboat casinos.

While that decline undoubtedly won’t signal the demise of gambling in Missouri, it does raise the question of whether making the necessary law changes to permit online gambling will benefit the state in the long run. But some state officials seem to think that the obstacles standing in the way of online gambling legislation may not be worth the potential headache brought on by the unknown variables that will inevitably come with this kind of landmark legislation. The first major change would have to be to the state constitution. Currently, Missouri allows only charitable gaming, bingo, riverboat gambling and the state lottery. But with riverboat casino revenues seemingly on a downward trend, the question of whether a potential financial boost from legalized online betting remains.[1]

missouri gamblingWhile lawmakers in the Show Me State have yet to discuss online gambling, some Missouri residents are joining groups of citizens from 12 other states to protest the legalization of online gambling. The groups are calling for Congress to bolster the bite of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, “to ensure its clear intent that the Internet not become a giant online casino.” The groups’ main issue is the overall “poor tax” that society could incur if online gambling is legalized. Their feeling is that society as a whole will pay dearly, more so than the states that pass Internet gambling legislation will benefit. Joining the Missouri group are residents from Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.[2]

First A Lottery, Then A Riverboat Casino Struggle–Missouri’s Cruise To Legalized Gambling

Missouri’s modern history of gambling began in November of 1984 when Missouri residents voted to pass Amendment 5, effectively repealing the state constitution’s ban on a lottery. Seventy percent of the voters approved the change, and on June 11, 1985, Senate Bill 44 passed, paving the way for the lottery’s creation. The first ticket was sold on Jan. 20, 1986, and within a year, the lottery joined the Multi-State Lottery Association. By August 1988, voters approved another constitutional amendment that removed restrictions on lottery payout maximums and advertising. April 1992 signaled the start of Powerball, which took the place of Lotto America.[3]

That same year, another amendment passed, this time giving the green light for lottery proceeds to benefit Missouri public education. The arrival of 1997 saw the state’s profit from lottery revenue reach $1 billion, with lottery sales more than $3 billion. Numerous changes and additions to games continued throughout the lottery’s first 10 years, and proceeds to the state remained strong. In 2011, the Missouri Lottery celebrated its 25th anniversary. To date, lottery proceeds total more than $4.2 billion, with sales exceeding $15 billion.[4]

While Missouri voters didn’t have too difficult a time approving the creation of a state lottery, getting approval for gambling on riverboats turned out to be more of an adventure for residents and legislators alike. A November 1992 vote approved riverboat casinos, with certain stipulations. The boats had to be on the Mississippi or Missouri rivers, and there was a $500 cap on how much an individual player was allowed to lose.

In 1993, the Missouri Gaming Commission was created to oversee all gambling activity in the state. Seven different companies applied for licenses to operate riverboat casinos, and not long after the boats were in business, the state of Missouri did its best to defend itself after being overrun with lawsuits that equated certain casino games with lotteries. With the wording of the 1984 constitutional amendment allowing only state-run lotteries, the court ruled that some games were similar to lotteries, and the privately-run riverboats were forced to shut down their roulette wheels and baccarat games, permitted only to continue offering blackjack and live poker.[5]

The casinos fought back in April of 1994 with another gambling initiative, which first failed to pass. But by November, the constitutional amendment allowing the previously restricted casino games on riverboats passed, and Missouri’s floating casinos enjoyed a bustling business once more. Since then, as many as 14 boats were in operation, and in 1998, another amendment that did away with the cruise requirement passed. Riverboats were no longer required to cruise out into the river, but could dock in channels along the river instead. A problem later occured when a commercial barge hit a docked riverboat casino with 2,500 gamblers on board, which eventually allowed for the riverboats to be docked off-river in artificial moats.

Currently, 12 Missouri riverboats are still in operation. Missouri is also home to one casino operated by the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Bordertown Bingo and Casino opened in 1987 and is governed by the National Indian Gaming Association, which works with the federal government to ensure that native American casinos are properly run and regulated.[6][7]

Future Of Online Gambling In Missouri Questionable

When the 2013 legislative session begins, Missouri lawmakers will be inundated with proposals on hundreds of different topics and issues. Online gambling legislation will not be in the forefront of topics to be considered by lawmakers. However, with admissions and revenues at a majority of the state’s riverboat casinos on the decline, the possibility exists that the state has reached market saturation with its riverboat (land-based) gambling. Legislators may eventually be forced to examine some kind of online gambling legislation to increase revenue. Other states have already begun taking the plunge and more are expected to follow suit.

But the fact remains that gamblers in every state, including Missouri, are already placing their bets online, and that money is going somewhere else when it could be going directly to Missouri’s state coffers. The question of how long Missouri’s lawmakers will wait and take the “Show Me” attitude in regards to the profitability of regulated online gambling might only be answered when other states begin to reap dividends. The inevitability, however, has already shown itself, and there is a better than average chance that Missouri legislators will have to pay attention to the potential for gambling law changes soon in order to cash in on a form of gambling that is most likely here to stay.

Article References and External Sources

[1] Will Missouri Be The Next State to Push For Internet Gaming? by RiverFrontTimes.com
[2] Missouri family groups oppose online gaming legislation by CBS St Louis
[3] The history of the Missouri Lottery by MOlottery.com
[4] Where the proceeds from the Missouri Lottery go to by MOlottery.com
[5] The history of gambling in Missouri
[6] About the Bordertown Casino in Southern Missouri
[7] Indian Gaming in the United States